Jennefer Canales-PelaezImmigration Attorney
Jennefer joined Tahirih in 2019. As an Immigration Staff Attorney, Jennefer represents immigrant women and girls who have suffered sexual assault before DHS, immigration court, and family court. Prior to joining Tahirih, Jennefer worked at a private immigration firm and at the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights (CHIRLA) located in Los Angeles, California. Jennefer has advocated for immigrant rights from the age of 11 when she advocated for her relative’s immigration status to the President at the time, George W. Bush. Although her father was ultimately deported, she learned that emotions alone aren’t enough, and you need legal authority behind your word. Since then, Jennefer has dedicated her life and career to ensuring that no one else experiences the trauma she felt.
I am inspired by Tahirih’s commitment to providing client centered representation that serves to empower each woman and girl we advocate for.
Education: Southwestern Law School, JD; Occidental College, BA
Hometown: Houston, Texas
Liz ShieldsDeputy Director, Houston
Liz Shields joined Tahirih in 2017 as the Deputy Director of the Houston office. As Deputy Director, she supervises programmatic and operational staff, supports strategic growth, oversees grant management and ensures programmatic management embodies Tahirih’s overarching values.
Prior to joining Tahirih, Liz served as the Houston Managing Attorney at Kids In Need of Defense (KIND) from 2015-2017 after serving the same role in KIND’s Baltimore office from 2009-2015. Liz joined KIND at the birth of the organization. In addition to overseeing daily management of the office and maintaining a caseload, she substantially grew both the Baltimore and Houston offices, focusing on identifying key partners, collaborating with stakeholders, developing pro bono networks and creating collaborations.
Liz has a long history of pro bono legal representation pre-dating her time with Tahirih and KIND. She also worked within the Community Services Team of Holland & Knight LLP in Washington, D.C., where she worked collaboratively to provide pro bono immigration representation, focusing mainly on refugee resettlement and complex asylum claims.
“I am inspired and humbled by Tahirih’s clients. The women and children we serve each have their own voice and story, but possess a shared strength to become their own advocates. Being a part of an organization that not only supports and nurtures women fleeing violence, but also recognizes the importance of personal empowerment, is an honor.”
Liz graduated with honors from Rice University where she majored in the study of women and gender. She then attended the University of Houston School of Law, where she spent two semesters working in the Immigration Law Clinic.
Corina AzpuruaLegal Advocate
Corina Azpurua joined Tahirih in 2018. As a Legal Advocate in the Houston office, Corina conducts screenings for potential clients, prepares immigration forms and filings, assembles application packets; schedules and meets with clients and provide administrative support. Prior to joining Tahirih, Corina worked with Houston Immigration Legal Services Collaborative as the Program Coordinator.
I am inspired by the courage and resilience of every client we serve and by the amazing team working to empower women and children. I am honored to be part of a great mission.
Education: Bachelor of Law, Universidad Catolica Andres Bello, Caracas Venezuela
Hometown: Caracas, Venezuela
Ana Teresa CastellanoOperations Associate
Ana Castellano joined Tahirih in 2016. As the Operations Associate, Ana provides critical operational and administrative support to the Houston office, including day-to-day office administration, development, and financial duties. She also supports our client services and conducts preliminary screenings of service seekers, assists with client referrals, and supports our volunteer program. Before moving to the United States, she served as the office administrator at a law firm in Lima, Peru.
“Injustice occurs in many places in the world, and I am honored to be part of an organization that empowers women and children to overcome past trauma and access the justice they have previously been denied.”
Education: Escuela de Post Grado Universidad Peruana de Ciencias Aplicadas, MA; Universidad San Ignacio de Loyola, BA
Hometown: Lima, Peru
Katharina DechertLegal Advocate
Katharina Dechert joined Tahirih in 2016. As a Legal Advocate, Katharina conducts pre-screens and intakes with potential clients, provides legal advocacy, organizes legal clinics, and provides administrative support to the legal team. She also assists the Managing Attorney with administering Tahirih’s Pro Bono Network. Prior to Tahirih, Katharina was the Policy Advocacy and Leadership Associate for Asylum Access Ecuador. Before that, she was an intern at the International Criminal Court at The Hague, Netherlands and was a Human Rights Accompanier in Guatemala. Katharina has lived in Australia, Ecuador, Guatemala, and in the Netherlands.
“I am inspired by Tahirih’s commitment to empowering immigrant women and girls to reject violence and seek justice so that they can freely rebuild their lives safe from persecution.”
Education: University of Queensland, MIS; Wellesley College, BA
Hometown: Laramie, WY
Samantha Del BosqueSenior Staff Attorney
Samantha Del Bosque joined Tahirih in 2012. As a Senior Staff Attorney in Houston, Samantha represents women and girls in front of the Department of Homeland Security and Immigration Court. An active member of the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA), she currently serves on the National Refugee and Asylum Committee and serves as the Asylum Office Liaison for the Texas, Oklahoma, New Mexico Chapter. Samantha is admitted to practice in Federal Court (Southern District of Texas). Prior to Tahirih, she worked as a Staff Attorney at Catholic Charities and a Student Attorney at the Immigration Clinic at University of Houston Law Center. She is recipient of the University of Houston Law Center’s Dean’s Scholarship, Public Interest Fellowship, Equal Justice Works Summercorps Fellowship, Buick Wynne Environmental Law Scholarship, and Joseph Hensley Memorial Award. Before Law School, Samantha taught Spanish to disadvantaged and at risk children in the Houston area. Samantha was born and raised in France and has traveled extensively.
“Empowering women to live their lives as they choose. Growing up in a western country, I was privileged enough to dream of what and whom I wanted to be, and more importantly, I was able to follow that dream. This is not the case for the vast majority of women in the rest of the world. Working at Tahirih helps redress this injustice.”
Education: University of Houston Law Center, JD; University of Houston, BA; Universite de Bordeaux, France
Languages: French and Spanish
Hometown: Bordeaux, France
Liz DeweyDevelopment Associate
Liz Dewey joined Tahirih in 2015. As Houston’s Development Associate, Liz assists the local Development Manager in raising critical funds for the Houston office so that Tahirih can continue its lifesaving work. She manages constituent and volunteer relationships, drafts tailored communications for fundraising campaigns, and assists with event planning and execution. Prior to Tahirih, Liz was an Executive Assistant at a Portland-based interior design firm. She has traveled extensively, spending time in Europe, North Africa, the Middle East, South America, and China.
“Working for Tahirih, I hover between feeling very humbled and feeling like I might burst with pride. I’m surrounded by resilient and compassionate people, both the brave women and girls we serve and our tireless staff.”
Education: Portland State University, BA
Hometown: Portland, OR
Javier Arturo DominguezChildren’s Attorney
Javier Dominguez joined Tahirih in 2014. As Children’s Attorney, Javier represents girls and immigrant children in family courts, juvenile law courts, state courts, and immigration court. His legal representation includes filing applications for gender-based asylum, protecting survivors of domestic violence, human trafficking, and other violent crimes, and ensuring that children qualify for the Special Immigrant Juvenile Status. Prior to Tahirih, he worked as a staff attorney for Catholic Charities. Before law school, he was the Legislative Director for the League of United Latin American Citizens. Javier was born and raised in the transnational border region of El Paso, Texas and Ciudad Juarez, Mexico. He studied abroad in both Spain and Brazil.
“I am inspired by Tahirih’s legacy in transforming the lives of countless survivors of abuse and injustice. It has always been my passion to help immigrants and make a difference in their lives. I am thrilled to be working for this prestigious organization and helping to extend its legacy to promote social justice.”
Education: University of Seattle Law School, JD; Brown University, BA
Hometown: El Paso, TX
Guadalupe FernándezPolicy and Advocacy Manager
Guadalupe Fernández joined Tahirih in 2015. As the Houston Office’s Policy and Advocacy Manager, she is responsible for leading the development and advancement of Tahirih’s local and state-wide advocacy projects and campaigns to transform the policies and practices that directly impact immigrant survivors of violence.
Guadalupe joined Tahirih as the Children’s Legal Advocate, where she was responsible for ensuring that immigrant child survivors of violence and their families were empowered to navigate the complicated legal and social systems. Guadalupe came to Tahirih with a wealth of experience working with migrant children. Prior to Tahirih, she worked at Catholic Charities Houston as the Lead Legal Caseworker for the Child Advocacy and Legal Services Program. She conducted intakes, created outreach trainings, and provided legal case management assistance for detained and released unaccompanied minors in removal proceedings. In Washington DC, Guadalupe was on the steering committee of the DC Detention Visitation Network which provided humanitarian visits to adults in immigration detention centers. Guadalupe completed internships at the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law and the Central American Resource Center (CARECEN).
Guadalupe is a Fully Accredited Representative through the Department of Justice and is allowed to practice before both DHS and the Executive Office for Immigration Review, which includes the immigration courts and the Board of Immigration Appeals.
“I am inspired by our migrant community and the resiliency of the survivors we serve.”
Education: Georgetown University, BSFS
Hometown: Blue Island, IL
Lauren Fisher FloresImmigration Staff Attorney
Lauren joined Tahirih in 2018. As an Immigration Staff Attorney, Lauren represents immigrant women and girls who have suffered sexual assault before DHS, immigration court, and family court. Prior to joining Tahirih, Lauren was the Supervising Attorney at the Young Center for Immigrant Children’s Rights and a Staff Attorney at Kids in Need of Defense.
In 2014, Lauren was recognized by the Texas Access to Justice and the Texas Supreme Court for her pro bono work. Her article, “Protecting the Vulnerable Among Us: Notario Fraud and a Private Right of Action under the Texas DTPA, was published in the Journal of Consumer & Commercial Law. Lauren has lived, studied, and worked in Honduras and Chile.
“My place is to stand next to immigrant women and girls through a daunting process in a system that is often inhumane. I am inspired by the strength, courage, wisdom, and resilience of our clients. I am proud to be part of Tahirih, inspired by Tahirih’s commitment to quality holistic services, and honored to lift up the voices of our incredible clients.”
Education: University of Houston Law Center, JD; University of Texas at Brownsville, MEd; Hamilton College, BA
Hometown: Brownsville, Texas
Meredith GudesblattLegal Advocate
Meredith Gudesblatt joined Tahirih in 2019. As a Legal Advocate, Meredith conducts intakes with potential clients, and provides legal advocacy and administrative support to the legal team. Prior to joining Tahirih, Meredith served as an Unaccompanied Children Legal Services Specialist with South Texas Bro Bono Asylum Representation Project (ProBAR) and as a Paralegal with Kids in Need of Defense (KIND). Meredith has lived, studied and conducted research on human rights and migration in both Spain and Latin America.
I am inspired by Tahirih’s commitment to uplifting and empowering immigrant women and girls, and I am grateful to be part of the mission to fighting for the justice they deserve.
Education: Middlebury Language Schools, MA; Cornell University, BA
Hometown: Long Island, NY
Elizabeth HasseStaff Attorney
Elizabeth Hasse joined Tahirih in 2014. As a Staff Attorney, Elizabeth represents women and girls in front of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and the Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR). Prior to working at Tahirih, Elizabeth interned at Tahirih’s DC office and at KIND in Boston. She also worked as a student attorney at Boston University School of Law’s Asylum and Human Rights Clinic. Prior to law school, Elizabeth worked as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Jinotega, Nicaragua. In college, she studied abroad in Santiago, Chile, Oaxaca, Mexico, and Cusco, Peru.
“My clients are the some of the strongest women and girls that I have met. By the time they get to us, they have already done the hard part by fleeing violence and traveling hundreds or thousands of miles to get here. I am honored to help them seek protection.”
Education: Boston University School of Law, JD; University of Notre Dame, BA
Hometown: Iron Mountain, MI
Jessica HowtonManaging Attorney
Jessica Howton joined Tahirih in 2011. As Managing Attorney for Tahirih Houston, she provides legal representation to clients, particularly minors, mentors pro bono attorneys, oversees the Houston pro bono program, and manages the Houston legal team and its program. Prior to joining Tahirih, Jessica was an intern at Kids in Need of Defense during law school, where she represented unaccompanied migrant children. After law school, she earned a Notre Dame fellowship to serve at Tahirih as a staff attorney. Jessica studied abroad in France, London, and Cameroon. In Cameroon, she worked in protection office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and conducted evaluation missions along the Nigerian border. Jessica currently serves as the co-chair of the Texas Immigration Task Force, where she leads quarterly meetings and presentations on current trends and updates in immigration law.
“I am consistently inspired by my co-workers and the amazing women and children that we serve. It is an honor to work with our clients and help to provide them with the support and strength they deserve as they courageously stand up for their right to live in safety and have access to justice. Our clients are the most resilient women and children I have ever met and the strength, hope, and achievement they show as they fight for their basic human rights is truly amazing.”
Education: Notre Dame Law School, JD; Connecticut College, BA
Languages: Spanish and French
Hometown: Bucaramanga, Colombia
Hania LunaSocial Services Associate
Hania Luna joined Tahirih in 2015. As the Social Services Associate, Hania provides case management and brief social services support to service seekers. To help women and girls rebuild their lives free from violence, she assists them with safety planning and connects them with food, medical care, mental health, housing/shelter, and education through referrals. Prior to Tahirih, Hania was a Senior Caseworker at the International Rescue Committee in Baltimore, working with asylees and other immigrants seeking humanitarian relief. Before that, she was an Administrative Assistant at a private immigrant service center in Central California focusing on USCIS petitions and tax preparation assistance. Hania spent one year doing master’s coursework in international human rights law and forced migration at the American University in Cairo.
“Being able to empower women and girls who are in crisis means everything. Every woman should live in dignity and safety.”
Education: Georgetown University, BA
Languages: Spanish; basic Arabic and French
Hometown: Gustine, CA
Natalie MatuszczakSocial Services Associate
Natalie Matuszczak joined Tahirih in 2020. As Social Services Associate, Natalie provides case management and brief social services support to service seekers. To help women and girls rebuild their lives free from violence, she assists them with safety planning and connects them with food, medical care, mental health, housing/shelter, and education through referrals.
Prior to joining Tahirih, Natalie was a Program Coordinator at YMCA International Services where she managed programs in the areas of citizenship education, microenterprise development and disaster recovery for newcomer immigrant communities. Natalie has also studied abroad in Grenoble, France, and Reykjavik, Iceland, and spent a school year teaching English to primary school students in northern France.
Women and girls are particularly vulnerable immigrants because of longstanding social and cultural inequities that exist around the world. I am honored to contribute to Tahirih’s mission of empowering immigrant women and find inspiration in our clients’ courage and determination to live free from violence.
Languages: French; basic Polish and Spanish
Education: University of Michigan, BA
Hometown: Gulfport, Mississippi
Kimberly OrellanaSocial Services Associate
Kimberly Orellana joined Tahirih in 2016. As Social Services Associate, Kimberly provides case management and brief social services support to service seekers. To help women and girls rebuild their lives free from violence, she assists them with safety planning and connects them with food, medical care, mental health, housing/shelter, and education through referrals. Prior to Tahirih Kimberly has served many survivors of domestic and sexual violence in the Houston area during her time at our local domestic and sexual violence agency, the Houston Area Women’s Center. Kimberly has experience serving people with disabilities and other underserved individuals through one of Houston’s largest mental health provider, The Harris Center for Mental Health and IDD.
“Tahirih gives people the voice that otherwise wouldn’t be heard and I am grateful to be part of the mission.”
Education: University of Houston, BA
Hometown: Guatemala City, Guatemala
Karla PerezEqual Justice Works Fellow
Karla Perez joined Tahirih in 2018. As an Equal Justice Works Fellow Sponsored by Greenberg Traurig, LLP and The Texas Access to Justice Foundation, Karla represents immigrant women and girls who are survivors of gender-based violence in underserved communities surrounding the greater Houston region. Prior to joining Tahirih, Karla completed internships with the Immigration and Citizenship Program at Baker Ripley, Tahirih Justice Center, and the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund.
I am inspired by Tahirih’s work to provide holistic legal services to immigrant women and girls amidst constant changes in local and national policy for the immigrant community. As an immigrant myself, I am incredibly proud to serve our courageous and resilient clients.
Education: University of Houston Law Center, JD; University of Houston, BBA
Hometown: Mexico City
Tiffany RossSocial Services Program Manager
Tiffany Ross joined Tahirih in 2020. As the Social Service Program Manager, Tiffany overseas and supports clients by connecting them to various social services resources to meet their basic needs of housing, medical care, and mental health services. Prior to joining Tahirih, Tiffany worked with women coming out of the criminal justice system by connecting them to resources and supportive services. Prior to that, she worked within the mental health field educating the community on mental illnesses, women’s mental health, stigma, and connected providers and community members to mental health services.
In 2017, Tiffany was recognized by the Texas Department of Criminal Justice and received the Volunteer Service Award.
“I am inspired by Tahirih’s mission of uplifting and empowering girls and women to not only survive but thrive in finding their voice to educate and advocate for equality.”
Education: University of Texas-Austin, MSSW
Hometown: Houston, TX
Piyu SenVolunteer Coordinator
Piyu Sen joined Tahirih in 2016. As Volunteer Coordinator, she manages and expands Tahirih’s network of pro bono attorneys, medical/social services providers, and other skills-based volunteers in the Houston area. She aids the Houston staff with volunteer retention, valuation, and volunteer data integrity. Prior to Tahirih, she taught in a vigorously academic Montessori classroom in the heart of Houston’s Rice Village. She has also coordinated and established the first children’s literary section at the Houston Independent Book Festival hosted by the Menil Collection from 2011-2012, coordinated entertainment at UTHSC’s annual Stroke Prevention Fair in 2016, aided in the development of small fundraisers in the Houston arts community, and has donated her copy editing skills to Nano Fiction, a flash fiction magazine. She was born in Hyderabad, India and has traveled throughout India, Kashmir, the Caribbean, Mexico, and the continental United States.
“I am inspired by Tahirih Justice Center’s simple but essential mission – to ease the struggle of vulnerable immigrant women and girls, and to bring informed advocacy to the public. As a member of the immigrant community, I am proud to be a part of that mission.”
Education: Bay Path University, BA
Hometown: Long Island, New York
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WFAA, Dallas’s leading local news outlet, quotes Tahirih Houston Policy & Advocacy Manager, Guadalupe Fernandez, on racism and how the COVID-19 pandemic is disproportionately harming communities of color. Racial injustice […]June 17, 2020
The Tahirih Justice Center joined more than 400 immigrant justice organizations and ally groups to express our solidarity with Black communities. Read the full text of the letter below: […]June 4, 2020